Turkey’s Deep State Re-Visited: “The Case of the Century”

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This January, Gareth Jenkins shared his observations on the Turkish “Deep State” in a prolific ISN Security Watch article. Not only did he shed light on the history of “Ergenokon,” a clandestine ultra-Kemalist guerilla organization with obscure links to NATO’s covert stay-behind network “Gladio,” but also raised a momentous question: Is the Turkish military, hitherto the staunch and “ultimate guardian of the traditional interpretation of secularism in Turkey,” discrediting itself with its more than likely involvement in planning a coup d’état, thus losing ground to Erdoğan’s Islamist AKP in the struggle over the future of Turkish secularism?

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's mausoleum / Photo: carolinebeatriz/flickr
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s mausoleum / Photo: carolinebeatriz/flickr

Although not receiving much media attention because the major Turkish media conglomerate is said to sympathize with Ergenokon, last weekend, thousands of protesters, wearing white gloves, marched through the streets of Istanbul chanting “Let the coup plotters be tried.” Several half-hearted attempts to legally tackle the conspiracy in the past have proven the Deep State to be a tough nut to crack.

This Monday, a new attempt to crack down Ergenokon started with 56 suspected plotters having to stand trial.

Among the defendants this time are the two highest ranking officers in modern Turkish history to go on trial, the Generals Sener Eruygur, a former Gendarmerie commander, who is suffering from “memory problems,” and Hursit Tolon, a retired army chief, both facing life sentences if convicted. To add some spice, the case is surrounded by mysterious “suicides” of important witnesses. Nonetheless, “much of the establishment media has portrayed the trial as a celebrity-filled farce,” the Times Online reports, with a lot of laughter having filled the courtroom repeatedly.

Less funny one might find the 1,909-page indictment, quoting one general referring to a 1997 coup with the words: “We should have sorted this business out on 28th February, damn it. […] There wasn’t the EU then. […] Now everything is much more difficult.”

What many still denounce as an organized smear campaign against the army, and what has been called the “the most important [criminal case] in Turkey’s history” and a “trial that will define Turkey“, has, either way, “exacerbated the already dangerous social polarization between the pro-AKP Islamists and Turkey’s traditional secularist elite”, Gareth Jenkins says.

And it certainly has shaken the confidence of anyone, in- or outside of Turkey, who thought the front lines within Turkey were clear. And who rock-solidly knew which side to choose.

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